Quincentennial Cattle

North America’s oldest cattle breeds celebrate 500 years of history, heritage, and hardiness.


Heritage Shorthorns were originally called “Durhams.”
Photo by Jeannette Beranger

2021 is a landmark year as we celebrate 5 centuries of cattle culture in North America. The animals first arrived on the continent in 1521, when Gregorio de Villalobos, viceroy of New Spain, rebelled against Spanish law prohibiting cattle trading in Mexico. He acquired six Spanish cows and a bull from what we now know as the Dominican Republic, and brought them to Mexico.

Remarkably, we still have breeds descended from these first arrivals and others that followed shortly thereafter. They’ve changed little over centuries of adaptation to some of the harshest living conditions known for cattle, such as the wet, hot environment of the Deep South, and the dry, hot lands of the Midwest and Mexico. Most of these breeds are highly endangered, but they’re slowly making a comeback as producers realize the value of these rugged survivors.


Florida Cracker
Photo by Jeannette Beranger

Florida Cracker

Florida was one of the first great cattle producers on the continent, and the Florida Cracker breed was the start of North America’s large-scale cattle culture. These cattle handle heat well, making the Florida Cracker the dominant breed in the region for centuries, until the heat-tolerant Zebu arrived in 1906. Later, as effective worming medications were developed, some of the larger and “improved” European breeds became prominent in the South. Florida Cracker cattle were crossbred with these European breeds until their numbers dwindled nearly to extinction. Thankfully, a handful of families with long cattle-raising histories refused to give up, and the Florida Crackers we have today are a result of their dedication. In the late 20th century, the state of Florida recognized the value of the breed as a living part of history, and took steps to conserve and manage the cattle within protected state herds.


Texas Longhorn
Photo by Jeannette Beranger

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters